Cancel everything or nothing.
The conversation around the musical, and now film, Hamilton proves consistency does not exist.
The musical Hamilton, based on Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, found fame and popularity on Broadway. They decided to debut the musical on Disney+ right when racism makes its way to the headlines.
Note: I have never seen Hamilton and have no plans on doing so. I cannot stand Alexander Hamilton and have no idea why anyone would make a play about him.
People have toppled statues. No one before the 1980s is safe. Criticism has ramped up against our Founding Fathers.
Alexander Hamilton was one of our founding fathers.
The debut of Hamilton on Disney+ started a conversation about him. People criticized the play because it leaves out an important part of his life (emphasis mine):
The musical and film version portray Hamilton as a ‘young, scrappy, and hungry’ immigrant and someone who was passionate about the abolition of slavery.
The production in light of recent Black Lives Matter protests has come under increased scrutiny with some pointing out that Hamilton was a slave trader.
The Founding Father married into a prominent New York slave-holding family, and managed the sale of slaves for his in-laws. He also did accounting for a Caribbean trading company that engaged in the slave trade.
#CancelHamilton trended on Twitter. Op-eds popped up, pointing out the problems with the Founding Father.
Loren Cecil and Tara Larson at Esquire had a few points:
Though he did not own or inherit slaves, Hamilton later became involved with the slave trade in the Carribean, The New Journal of African History reported. As a teenager, he took over operations of the entire St. Croix branch of Beekman & Cruger, an import-export business that engaged in the African slave trade and sugar business.
After he moved to the United States, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, who was a member of an influential, slave-owning family in Albany, New York. According to Harvard Law School Professor of History Annette Gordon-Reed, Hamilton bought and sold slaves for his in-laws.
Was Hamilton actually an abolitionist? Some say no:
Although the musical paints him as a revolutionary abolitionist who celebrates John Laurens’ dream of building “the first Black battalion,” historians say that this portrayal inflates Hamilton’s antislavery credentials. Gordon-Reed points out that opposing slavery was never at the forefront of his agenda.
Michael Newton, a historian and author of several books on Hamilton and the founding era, says that while Hamilton was a founder of the New York Manumission Society, which was an anti-slavery group, he did not seriously propose the total abolition of slavery. He also propped up several Federalist slaveholders as presidential candidates.
Ed Morales noted some of the problems of the play:
- Portrays Hamilton as an immigrant, outsider, but in reality, he “never faced” discrimination.
- Never shows that Hamilton wanted a monarchy.
- Does not explain that he “compromised” his abolitionist beliefs “to protect property rights.”
- His romance with Schuyler ignores the fact that her family was “one of the largest and most notorious slave-owning families in New York state.”
- The concentration on Hamilton’s extramarital affair “glosses over his failure to speak out against the three-fifths compromise, which allowed Southern states to count Black people as three-fifths a person for representation purposes.”
Tracy Clayton, host of the Netflix podcast Strong Black Legends, criticized the play, describing it as “flawed,” but also said Hamilton “gave her ‘flawed and imperfect life a big boost.'”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star of Hamilton, replied:
‘Appreciate you so much, @brokeymcpoverty. All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn’t get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It’s all fair game,’ he tweeted.
“Did my best.”
I thought for sure people would blast Miranda over this after the revelations of Hamilton’s past. Sure he was flawed like everyone else, but the cancel mob has gone after everyone.
The replies to Miranda’s tweet boggled my mind because so many accepted his apology. Look at this:
No need to apologize for anything. Art is suppose to spark conversation. How many people barely heard of Hamilton/had any inkling of his story before your musical? Now they are discussing the life of a flawed person and his time in history. If you ask me, mission accomplished.
— Clinton Pope (@clintonpope) July 6, 2020
You’ve started a HUGE conversation from breaking casting ‘norms’ to today’s slavery discussions. It’s all good. Your service to humanity through this work will continue for a very long time.
— Laura B Fortgang (@LauraBFortgang) July 6, 2020
Nah. They miss that is a musical not a history book
— audrey haake (@aahaake) July 6, 2020
Does anyone remember when theater was made to entertain and suspend belief?
Art should still remain as self expression and free thought.
Agree or disagree with the context, but to condemn expression while seeking freedom seems hypocritical.
— clarke (@TheClarkeIsDark) July 6, 2020
Hamilton the play is important as any art that attempts to explain humanity, good and bad. It’s a history lesson, Americans could stand to learn more history. Our imperfect Union was created with a mechanism for redress and change. It’s still the only nation that allows that!
— Donald Mhalek (@DMhalek) July 7, 2020
Ok, people. You cannot pick and choose. Either cancel everyone or everything with an “unsavory” past or nothing. But I guess since Miranda “did his best” and cast a bunch of non-white people makes it okay?
If a conservative made this play everyone would be up in arms for washing away Hamilton’s ties to slavery.DONATE
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